An international elementary school is a rich language environment for English language learners. Instruction is in English, the common language between friends with different backgrounds is often English and the environment is often covered in English language prompts from the alphabet on the wall to signs around campus. This environment provides English language learners multiple opportunities to see, hear and practice English and helps them to reach fluency more rapidly. 

However, with online learning, English language learners are less likely to be immersed in an English language environment. Especially in households where the family language is not English, children are exposed to English during online classes, but then return to the language of their home in conversation, music and media. They miss out on the immersive environment and the informal use of English, within the school environment and this can slow their learning progress. 

In order to make up for this, St. Mary’s International School, our teachers utilize a variety of methods to ensure our English language-learners are getting the most out of our Learn @ Home Program. Our Elementary ELL teacher, Ms. Sunshine Paris, shared some of them with us:

Parents play an important role in language learning, especially during distance learning. Ms. Sunshine provided a few things you can do at home to help your child’s English language acquisition:

  • Play English children’s music and sing English songs with your child. 
  • If your children have screen time outside of distance learning, encourage them to watch age-appropriate shows or videos in English.
  • Put sticky notes around the house labeling everyday items with their English name.
  • Encourage your child to speak in English during video chats with classmates and friends
  • Read English books with your child and ask questions (Who?, What?, When?, Where?, Why?, How?).
  • Let your child listen to audio stories with a book so they can hear and read the words at the same time.
  • Ask your child to tell you about his day every day in English.
  • Praise your child’s efforts more than correcting mistakes.  Let teachers correct errors while you encourage practice.

Virtual learning can be more challenging for English-language learners, but with the dedication of thoughtful teachers and the help of involved parents, we can help them thrive.